Quarter of carers report mental ill-health symptoms

Almost 27 per cent of 'sandwich carers' show symptoms of mental ill-health while caring for both sick, disabled or older relatives and children, says the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Sandwich carers, deemed as those that look after their elderly parents and their children, are more likely to experience symptoms of mental ill-health – which can include anxiety and depression – than the general population. The ONS says that, with life expectancy increasing and women having their first child at an older age, around three per cent of the UK general population, equivalent to more than 1.3 million people, now have this twin responsibility.

The prevalence of mental ill-health increases with the amount of care given, with over 33 per cent of sandwich carers, often aged in their 40s and 50s, providing at least 20 hours of adult care per week reporting symptoms of mental ill-health, compared with 23 per cent of those providing fewer than five hours each week.

The report also warns of the hidden pressures being carried by these mid-life carers, with warnings that they can be worn down emotionally, physically and financially - one in three sandwich carers say that they are ‘just about getting by’ financially.

The Carers UK charity says that, as well as putting pressure on health and well-being, being a carer is also tough on those balancing being a carer with their own jobs, many of whom are women. The charity estimates that about two million people have left work as a result.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “Beyond dual caring responsibilities, there is increasing pressure on sandwich generation to juggle work with caring and, as a result, it is one of the most time-poor and stressed generations. Given these pressures it is no surprise that more than a quarter of sandwich carers report symptoms of mental ill-health, and that this increases with the amount of care provided. As well as impacting on carers’ health and wellbeing, the strain also takes its toll on their ability to work – more than two million people have given up work to care for older or disabled relatives.

“Carers UK’s research found that trying to find the right care for an older relative was harder and more stressful than finding good quality childcare. With the social care system under extreme pressure, additional stress is being placed on families who are trying to juggle children, work and older relatives. It is vital that the government provides ambitious proposals for the funding and delivery of adult social care in the upcoming Green Paper – proposals  that better support older and disabled people, giving the sandwich generation the ability to better manage work and caring responsibilities. It must ensure that they receive practical and financial support to care without putting their own lives on hold.”

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